The Air Force’s brand-new F-15EX fighter jet is about to have its first major exercise

Air Force F-15EX fighter jet
The first F-15EX is delivered to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, March 11, 2021.

  • The US Air Force is sending its new F-15EX fighter to a large-scale exercise around Alaska.
  • The top commander in Alaska said the F-15EX will try out its Eagle Passive/Active Warning Survivability System, designed to increase its threat assessment and survivability.
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The US Air Force is sending its new F-15EX fourth-plus generation fighter to participate in a large-scale exercise in and around Alaska next month.

The 53rd Wing out of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, announced Thursday that the F-15EX, now known as the Eagle II, will conduct operational tests while flying in Exercise Northern Edge 21, a joint Indo-Pacific Command drill incorporating approximately 15,000 service members from each branch, multiple Navy ships and roughly 240 aircraft.

“The unique range assets in place at Northern Edge provide a different, unfamiliar, complex, and operationally realistic environment for the technology and the tactics we’re testing,” said Lt. Col. Mike Benitez, 53rd Wing director of staff, in a news release. The service’s first two F-15EX fighters belong to the 53rd as they undergo test and evaluation. The Boeing-made jets were delivered to the Air Force earlier this month.

The wing will also test other equipment during the exercise, such as the Infrared Search and Track sensor pod on the F-15C model and communication node gateways on the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane, the release states.

In a discussion with the Air Force Association this week, Lt. Gen. David Krumm, Pacific Air Forces’ 11th Air Force commander, said the F-15EX will try out its Eagle Passive/Active Warning Survivability System, an advanced electronic warfare technology designed to increase its threat assessment and survivability.

Air Force F-15EX fighter jet
The F-15EX arrives to Eglin Air Force Base, March 11, 2021.

Exercise locations include Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Eielson Air Force Base and Allen Army Airfield, along with King Salmon, Cold Bay, Fairbanks International Airport, Ted Stevens International Airport and Juneau International Airport in Alaska; and Fairchild Air Force Base and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, according to another release.

Aircraft will fly within the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which encompasses more than 77,000 square miles of airspace. Pilots often practice aggressor training there – simulating friendly “blue air” against enemy fighters in advanced air-to-air training.

Ships and aircraft, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will operate in the Gulf of Alaska for the exercise, the release adds.

The Air Force is in the process of building up its fighter fleet at Eielson, including the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing version, to support missions in both the Pacific and Arctic. A total of 54 F-35s are scheduled to arrive at Eielson by December 2021.

Major units participating in the exercise include the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group and Carrier Air Wing 11; the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit; the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, from Elmendorf-Richardson; 17th Field Artillery Brigade from Lewis-McChord; and the 3rd Expeditionary Air and Space Task Force.

“Typically, training happens within your units, within your services, but you never really get the volume or the complexity you would expect to see in a modern-day conflict,” said Lt. Col. Mike Boyer, Pacific Air Forces Northern Edge lead planner, in the release.

“Northern Edge allows the joint force to put all the pieces of the puzzle together in the big picture and allows our younger generation within the armed forces to experience what future conflict could feel like in the complexities associated with it,” he said.

The exercise will run from May 3 to 14.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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A US F-15C fighter jet recently fired the longest air-to-air missile ‘kill’ shot in Air Force history

F-15C fires missile at Eglin Air Force Base
An F-15C fires a missile near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

  • A US Air Force F-15C scored the longest “kill” shot ever recorded in a recent test.
  • The fighter took out a BQ-167 aerial target drone in March at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
  • The Air Force did not disclose the distance, as that information could be valuable to adversaries.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A US Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter fired the longest known air-to-air “kill” shot to date in a recent test, the service said Wednesday.

The fighter fired an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) at a BQ-167 target drone and scored a “kill” from the farthest distance ever recorded during testing at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in March, the 53rd Wing said in a statement.

US  Air Force F-15Cs
US Air Force F-15Cs.

The wing did not say exactly what the distance was, as that information could be valuable to adversaries, particularly given ongoing efforts by US rivals to develop long-range air-to-air missiles for improved standoff in air-to-air combat.

The weapon that was fired during the testing last month was an AIM-120D, the latest version of an all-weather, beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile that first entered service in the early 1990s, a wing spokesperson told Insider.

It is unclear if the weapon or aircraft involved in the test were modified in any way.

The Air Force plans to eventually replace the AMRAAM with a weapon called the AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile, a longer-range air-to-air missile expected to be able to better compete with some of the systems developed by US rivals, such as China’s PL-15 missile.

The Air Force is also pursuing other lines of effort as America’s competitors do the same.

A US Air Force F-16 firing an AIM-120 AMRAAM over the gulf near Eglin AFB
A US Air Force F-16 fires an AIM-120 AMRAAM over the Gulf of Mexico near Eglin Air Force Base.

The aircraft used to launch the missile is a venerable combat platform that has served the US Air Force for decades. An F-15 has never been shot down in air-to-air combat, according to the Air Force.

But the average age of the Air Force’s legacy F-15C/D fighters is almost 40 years, and about 75% of the fleet is flying past its service life.

The Air Force intends to steadily replace all of these fighter aircraft with either the fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter or the advanced fourth-generation F-15 Eagle II, previously known as the F-15EX. The service received its first new Eagle in March.

Air Force F-15EX fighter jet
The F-15EX, the Air Force’s newest fighter, arrives at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, March 11, 2021.

The long-range “kill” shot by a legacy F-15 in March was part of efforts to develop “long range kill chain” capabilities.

The test was carried out by the 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron in partnership with the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron.

The test “exercised existing long-range weapons testing infrastructure and laid the ground work for modernizing range capabilities in support of future long-range weapons testing on the Eglin-Gulf Test and Training Range,” the 53rd Wing said in its statement.

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